Philosophic Dialogue on Dunayevskaya’s May 12, 1953, Letter on Hegel’s Absolutes and Gramsci’s “organic party”

January 31, 2015

From the January-February 2015 issue of News & Letters

What intrigues me in Franklin Dmitryev’s article in the last issue responding to Dunayevskaya’s May 12, 1953, Letter is how he sees the development of Dunayevskaya’s thoughts on philosophy and organization where she went beyond the old ideas of the party to seeing the “party” as the new society being born from the old. It is a good thing that News and Letters Committees has broken sharply from all the Leninist formations without capitulating to a certain juvenile anarchist rejection of all authority or structure. I would like to add something, however: the idea of the organic party.

This idea is based on Antonio Gramsci’s idea of the organic intellectual, wherein, to cite an excellent analysis I found online, “Organic Intellectuals & Counter Hegemonic Theoretical Discourse” by Anthony Torres:

“…Gramsci maintained that the working class, and its surrogates, needs to develop its own ‘organic intellectuals’ to articulate its coherent philosophy, in order to counter a bourgeois hegemony of ideas. Additionally, he believed that with the emergence of new modes of production and the consequent emergence of a new class vying for dominance, there should develop a new class of intellectuals who give the ascending class homogeneity and awareness of its social interests and progressive role, not only in the economic sphere but also politically and culturally.

“The struggle for social liberation demands the establishment of a rival hegemony, and thus a struggle to establish a cadre of rival ‘organic intellectuals’ to win over the bulk of ‘traditional’ intellectuals, as well as to articulate the interests of an ascending socially conscious class.

“Here, one of the first tasks for socially progressive ‘organic intellectuals’ is to discredit or dispute a dominant ideological hegemony of the ruling class through opposing value systems. This implies that working people and the oppressed must create a continuous expansion of ‘consent’ in which various groups are melded together to form new alliances and historical blocs between ‘traditional intellectuals’ and ‘organic intellectuals.’

“However, perhaps the most important, as regards the notion of organic intellectuals, is that for Gramsci there seems to be an explicit association that impacts and problematically binds his considerations of ‘organic intellectuals’ as being integrally related to an alternative ascendant revolutionary party as the intellectual wing of the working class.

“Gramsci, it seems, believes that all members of a political party should be regarded as intellectuals. Here, what is critical is that the formation and function of an alternative party—which should be organizational and directive—be educative, in other words, intellectual.”

If we apply this idea of the organic intellectual to the questions of organization, the “organic party” which is not a vanguard party consists of a social force which tries to establish a set of ideas which seek to overthrow the ideas of bourgeois society. Torres sees the “organic intellectual” in the context of the Leninist idea of the vanguard party. We can go beyond that, remaining true to Dunayevskaya’s rejection of vanguardism, by recognizing that, even for her, the development of working-class intellectuals, men and women from the factories and the fields, is key to the growth of a revolutionary organization. Dunayevskaya’s ideas on the Absolute Mind, concretized in the class struggle, acquire an organizational form—News and Letters Committees—and in the context of that form, priority should be given to the development of a new type of party, the organic party, a unity of intellectuals and the new working-class intellectuals that we hope to bring to fruition.


News and Letters Committees and its members should recognize that in our total opposition to both capitalist and state-capitalist societies, in our embrace of the revolutionary aspect of Hegelianism, and in basing our philosophy on the humanism of Marx, we are a clear and distinct force in the Left, the organic party in gestation; and that in our public work, in our development of a philosophic dialogue with other progressive forces, in our solidarity campaigns and in the preparation of the newspaper, we should recognize our unique character and contributions and act accordingly.

Unlike vanguard parties, our goal is not the incorporation of a cadre into a certain fixed structure that Lenin advocated for in 1902 and rejected in 1905, but the development of “organic intellectuals,” thinkers and philosophers from the ranks of the Black masses as vanguard, women, youth, and workers, who themselves will take responsibility for the articulation and development of a philosophy of revolution. If News and Letters Committees begins to see itself as a place where “organic intellectuals” from whatever class can be united in an organic party, in this new sense of identification, our work will be more fruitful.

Comments are always welcome. After all, the only constant in this world, including in this organization, is the dynamic of change.

—Michael Gilbert

0 thoughts on “Philosophic Dialogue on Dunayevskaya’s May 12, 1953, Letter on Hegel’s Absolutes and Gramsci’s “organic party”

  1. I don´t see why quoting Gramsci about the ‘organic intellectual’, when Marxist-Humanism gives us a quite deeper ground for understanding the relationship between philosophy, practice, and the mediation between both: organization. Organization should be rooted in dialectical philosophy, as well as in the practice of the masses as a form in itself of theory; without that, it is nothing.

    I used to have a friend who read Gramsci, Lenin, even Mao, and all the theoreticians who talk about organization and “revolutionary intellectuals”. When he concretized that into an organization, it was a vanguardist one. The idea of the “organic intellectual”, he understood it as “marxists” intellectuals inside the Academy struggling against “traditional intellectuals” for the hegemony of knowledge. For him, masses are not the the social subjects; middle-class intellectuals are. This is because, although reading Gramsci, he lacks of a truly emancipatory philosophy.

    What I want to say with all this is that I don´t see Gramsci’s idea of the “organic party” or the “organic intellectual” being so useful for developing Marxist-Humanism. The relation between theory, practice and organization can be developed from within MH itself, and in a more profound sense —for it is rooted in the Absolute method. In Raya’s last book of her trilogy, as well as in her non-written book about organization and philosophy (written in part by E. Gogol), we could find several pathways for understanding and developing this relationship.

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